The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (WIAAP) has again voiced “strong opposition” to bills that would legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk in Wisconsin, saying the measures put children at risk.

“Simply put, this legislation would endanger kids,” said Dr.Jeff Lamont, president of the WIAAP, in a recent news release.

Dr. Jim Conway, chair of the WIAAP Infectious Disease and Immunization committee, said, “These bills represent another attempt to undermine the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance of 1934, which has protected the public’s health for 77 years.”

Last year, Wisconsin’s then-governor Jim Doyle vetoed similar legislation proposed again this year, as AB 628 and SB 434., by Senate Republican Glenn Grothman and Assembly Republican Don Pridemore.

The pediatricians join a coalition of other health groups, public agencies, and dairy and business associations opposing the Wisconsin bills.  The legislation is supported by raw-milk advocates who want to be able to openly buy unpasteurized and some farmers who want to legally sell it — unpasteurized milk commands as much as four times or more the price of pasteurized milk.

 “The financial benefit to a small group of people is not worth the risk and higher health care costs to taxpayers,” said Dr. Lamont, adding that “as pediatricians we care for and protect children who cannot choose their own diets.”

The pediatricians note that raw milk, which has not been heat-treated to kill dangerous pathogens, is known to expose consumers to foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria such as E coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter and even tuberculosis. These bacteria are capable of causing diseases as serious as meningitis, kidney failure, severe diarrhea, bone or joint infections, and even death, and can lead to miscarriages in pregnant women.

Conway stated, “Pasteurization has prevented countless cases of infection in children and individuals with compromised immune systems, as well as the general public. There are no scientific reasons to oppose pasteurization, but there are significant risks associated with the practice of drinking raw milk.” 

States that permit the sale of raw milk run nearly three times the risk of having raw milk-related outbreaks, the WIAAP pointed out.  In 2010 alone there were 16 documented disease outbreaks caused by unpasteurized dairy products in 11 states that do permit the products.

“Most importantly,” said Conway, “There is no scientific evidence of any health benefits to raw milk, while there are countless publications in peer-reviewed journals clearly proving the benefits of pasteurization.”

Recent testimony by the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) also expressed opposition to the proposed law. Dr. Keith Poulsen of the WVMA said, “Grade A milk is only suitable for human consumption after pasteurization, as there are no acceptable rapid tests to identify harmful bacteria in raw milk, and even healthy cows shed bacteria in their milk.”

Along with the Wisconsin pediatricians and veterinarians and their national organizations, multiple public health and agricultural health agencies oppose the sale of unpasteurized milk products, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, NMC (formerly the National Mastitis Council), the U.S. Animal Health Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Environmental Health Association, the International Association for Food Protection, the World Health Organization, and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.